Harnessing social media: Finding fame beyond traditional platforms

By Jimmy Hughes-Brown

22 May 2024

Instagram sees 500 million daily users and TikTok 1 billion monthly, so regardless of the type of person you want to reach, your future listeners are already scrolling, waiting to be captivated by something exciting.

Recording and releasing music on SoundCloud or Bandcamp is important, but these platforms lack the vast user base and outreach capabilities of major social media sites like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook.

@iamlamour_, an artist manager at Blancmgmt, has recognized this and effectively uses social media to promote his artists on a smaller scale.

“Social media will change your life,” Lamour says. “I’ve seen it with so many people. Social media has changed the game. It’s like a blessing and a curse. Do you know what I mean? Our work blew up in five weeks, and now it’s about maintaining it.”

It’s no secret that social media, particularly Instagram and TikTok, are hotbeds for artists looking to grow their brands. Working with the algorithm to boost your profile is crucial, but you have to post the right content to take full advantage. Lamour says, “It’s pure persistence. I always tell people it’s persistence, not consistency because if you’re consistently bad, it doesn’t work. There are so many people out there who say, ‘Oh, I’m consistent,’ but they’re posting the wrong stuff, so no one’s going to watch it.”

It’s not just about follower count; getting the formula right can make certain videos go viral. Lamour manages a rapper with 6,000 followers who regularly gets videos with 100,000 likes.

Sometimes, an unconventional approach is necessary. You can’t rely solely on putting your own songs out there. ADMT, one of Blancmgmt’s artists, now boasts over 600,000 followers.

ADMT’s videos are characterized by him singing covers of popular songs, facing off-camera with a heavenly glow, thanks to a filter. He has covered many songs, ensuring there’s at least one pop song you recognize.

READ MORE: “It doesn’t sit right” – struggles with promoting music online

“We do it in his way—slowed down with the piano. We’ve got four of the most viral songs on TikTok. With Adam, we showcase his voice using other people’s songs. So it’s a song you’ve already got a connection to,” Lamour says.

This approach leverages the brain’s memory recall tendency, making his content more likely to be remembered and shared. One of ADMT’s most popular examples is his rendition of “If I Was Your Best Friend” by 50 Cent, with a pop twist.

ADMT’s voice has even been featured in adverts, on BBC Introducing, and had a cameo appearance on the popular TV show “Ted Lasso.”

How does it feel for an artist to use social media to create a brand in this way? The romantic notion of the right venue, the right crowd, and the right time launching a career seems long gone.

“It’s definitely a business,” ADMT says. “I didn’t want to be a business when I started. I just wanted to sing songs, but it has to be because the world is business. You have to incorporate yourself into that as a brand.”

“I don’t love social media. In fact, I quite dislike it, but in the same sense, it has changed my life. If you do something of quality and you’re consistent, then people will engage with it.”

It’s about figuring out what works for your brand of music, posting the right things at the right time, and accepting that if done right, social media can be a surefire way to succeed.

ADMT says, “The first time they see it, they might think, ‘Oh yeah, that’s good,’ but it might not be until the fifth time that they like it. It’s a tricky game. We’re in a position now where, for instance, one of my Instagram reels has got 15 million views, which is nuts. Then it can go up, but next thing you know, it might go down to a few thousand.”

Using the data and analytics that social media provides, artists can monitor their progress and how fans interact with their music. This allows emerging artists to balance their art and commercial appeal, supporting what they do with constant exposure.

It’s not just young musicians who can benefit from social media. Bands that once struggled to get noticed when gigging and labels were the only options can now get their music out there and be recognized.

Turnbull Smith (45), guitarist for the York band Skylights, has been trying to break onto the circuit since 2008: “At the time, social media wasn’t massive, and we never really focused on it. We tried to do it through word of mouth, and it didn’t do very well.”

“We had a couple of okay gigs, but we got fed up after four years because we were only playing York. When we did go to Leeds, we played to empty rooms.”

Turnbull’s wife pushed them to get back into gigging after listening to an old Skylights CD, and they found themselves having to fill a 600-capacity venue. Panic set in.

“We had to sell 300 tickets just to cover costs,” Turnbull says. “I started flooding social media. I followed everyone with ‘Leeds United’ in their name because we’d written a song called ‘YRA’ after the Yorkshire Republican Army. I was inboxing anyone with an open inbox the version of our track, and to my astonishment, people came back saying they loved the song.”

Leeds United picked up the songs for their social media, giving Skylights a niche. After failing on the traditional circuit, social media gave them a foothold in the industry.

“Without social media, we wouldn’t even be playing. If someone saw us now in the music industry, our type of music isn’t selling, so they wouldn’t invest in us. Social media has been a godsend because without it, I don’t think we’d have gotten our name out,” Turnbull says.

Skylights have around 10,000 Instagram followers, not social media notoriety by a long stretch, but enough to push them forward in an industry that otherwise wouldn’t have cared about them.

You have the power to forge a relationship with your potential listeners, find your niche, and drive that home. There are people out there who want to hear your sound; they just haven’t come across you yet. It might seem a little inauthentic, but this is the direction the music industry is going, and it can take you with it.

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